29 November 2009

YouTube Delights - Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Diana Ross

Some non-sequitors.  I stumbled upon this life clip of Judy and Young Liza at London's Palladium singing "Hello, Dolly", or, as the case may be, "Hello Liza, Hello Mamma".  These are some talented dames.  And as young and "fresh" as Liza is, she radiates that certain star quality.


In looking through the users other YouTube videos (hoping for more from this concert) I instead found this clip of Diana Ross singing "He Lives in You" (as in, the song from the Broadway LION KING).  Apparently she recorded it in 1999.  It's actually quite fabulous.  and she does well by it.

Here is another, less opulant, performance of the name number by Ross.  The more initmate presentation is better vocally, but not as much fun.

20 November 2009

CARRIE Casting

Ever since my friend Andrew gave me a bootleg recording of CARRIE I've been obsessed.  (Remember that time I spent a morning watching different versions of "I'm Not Alone"?).  So when those wacky producers Jeffrey Seller and Kevin McCollum decided they were looking to dust it off and give it another chance, I was optimistic.  True, I thought an Encores!, or perhaps a BC/EFA Benefit concert version would be most appropriate, but these guys really think they can make it work.  So, why not let them try.  The elements are there--a compelling "world of the play", and a score that is, for the most part, actually fantastic.  The original production was an out of control mess, with director Terry Hands having little to no control/vision over what "the world of the play" should be.  Stafford Arima is doing honors here.  Many loved his stripped down, no-set RAGTIME at Papermill and the West End, but does he have to skills to find a balance in tone for CARRIE? 

What DOES excite me is the cast announced today.  Sutton Foster as the gym teacher?  Might be a waste of Sutton, but I'll take her in anything.  Marin Mazzie as the mother?  Something about it doesn't add up, but it titillates me as well and could be quite fabulous.  What has be most excited is Molly Ranson in the title role.  She was in BURNT PART BOYS at NYS&F this summer and she. is. incredibly. talented.  That she was cast gives me confidence that someone involved in this reading knows what they are doing.  I really hope that person is Stafford Arima.

18 November 2009

Talk Back/Talk Smack

Michael Reidel's latest column discusses the announced closing of OLEANNA, stirring up conrtoversy saying Mamet's axing of post show talk backs (and his general refusal to assist in any publicity) is part of the show's downfall.  The article fails to acknowledge the real issues at hand--a lazy production shipped in from LA with a director busy with another show down the street, two stars who weren't asked to do much more than be famous and pretty and learn their lines, and a dated script.  I did sense, reading posts from bloggers who attended the talk-backs (when they still existed) that the post-show event did add some value.  And I might have enjoyed hearing differing opinions from my own had I stayed.  But, talk-backs or the lack thereof are not what did OLEANNA in, star-fucking did.  Maybe it's true that you need boffo box office names above the marquee, but you need a good production on the boards.


Speaking of Talk Backs, last night I was inviteded to attend 39 STEPS, which also featured a talk back (hosted by Bob Balaban).  Again, I declined the invitation to stay, but I was curious as to what there was to talk about.  The evening was clever and executed to perfection, but didn't leave me with anything to think--let alone speak aloud to a group of strangers--about.  Its producers seem to by eyeing an Ave Q-esque move to New World Stages.  The show could certainly work there, and if they can generate audience interest, all the more power to them.  However, 39 STEPS didn't particularly ingratiate itself on me, and I have a hard time imagining myself rooting for its continued success that way I have (and do) with Q.  Partially because Q is about my life (struggling in Brooklyn in your 20s), whereas STEPS isn't really about anything other than a love of old movies and quick-changes (both of which I do enjoy).  But the house seemed full on a Tuesday night, and it is an "easy" show, one I could recommend to anyone without worrying it would be too weird or long or cheesey or in any way objectionable.  And perhaps that is the key to its longevity: it really is a show for everyone.  It just isn't a particularly insightful, moving or interesting show. 

15 November 2009


This is actually one of my favorite songs from COMPANY.  Don't know why, but do I really need a reason to love a Sondheim song?  I stumbled upon this on YouTube--Bernadette Peters and Richard Chamberlin performing the song from some sort of television special.  I believe it was a 1979 special titled "Musical Comedy Tonight", though the IMDB page does not have much information on it.  There was apparently a follow up program in 1982.  This song is actually ideal for Peters.  I had not known Chamberlin to be a singer, but he does a fine enough job.  He would have made an interesting Bobby in his day.  I am now intrigued to find out more about these programs, and if more clips exist on the interwebz.


How has this been on the internet since August without anyone mentioning it?  Sean Patrick Doyle, who is apparently playing Fruma Sarah in the national tour of FIDDLER (which was starring the aged Topol, who is now out and replaced by Harvey Fierstein), sings "Wheels of a Dream" from RAGTIME.   His imitation of Brian Stokes Mitchell is mostly adequate, but his imitation of Audra--and when do you ever hear imitations of Audra?  Never.--is uncanny.

Here, Doyle sings "Can't Help Loving Dat Man of Mine" in true McDonald style.

And, because it falls under the general heading of "Amazing", a (shhh) bootleg of Audra from the original Broadway production singing "Your Daddy's Son".  I would keepvid this shit before it gets taken down.

10 November 2009

MAME thoughts

I am basically obsessed with all things MAME, and have been ever since my mom directed AUNTIE MAME when I was in the 5th grade.  (I did not play Patrick because I felt "too much pressure", but I WAS Partrick Dennis for Halloween this year, bugle and all.)  I have read the book, seen both movies numerous times, and worked on a semi-staged concert version with Sandy Duncan, even though it meant spending another month living in a scary attic in Pittsfield, MA.  Everyone wants a revival of it, but it seems no one wants to produce a revival of it.  Perhaps it is because the writers are fiercely protective of it and basically want the original production again.  Jerry Herman has even gone to far as to say he would insist on the original Onna White choreography.  Of course, with a production looming and a skilled director at the helm, Herman may let go a little, but we'll never know.  I don't think the libretto needs much revision at all, though I would get rid of Lindsey Woolsey (he is completely useless) put the Upson's anti-semitism from the play back in the musical (with Mame opening a home for Jewish refuges and not unwed mothers and the end), and restore the best--and most important--line of the play:

Patrick: There are a lot of things a girl like Gloria doesn't need to know about.
Mame: Should she know that I think you've turned into one of the most beastly, bourgeois babbitty snobs on the Eastern Sea-Board, or will you be able to make that quite clear without and help from me?

In the original novel, Mame's liberal free spirit was as political as it was fabulous and decadent.  To me, the play AUNTIE MAME is actually quite similar to Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's other popular play, INHERIT THE WIND.  Both center on the protagonists fight to protect and encourage the right to think, and both reflect the core of the national debate that has led to those outrageous town hall meetings or the inability to pass marriage equality laws.  Nowadays, MAME is too often thought of as a musical about a woman who wears 30 years of fabulous fashion and drinks a lot, a family friendly ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS.  I would love to see someone like David Cromer mine the play with this in mind.

As for Onna White's choreography, it is truly excellent.  I've often thought her work looked awkward in films like BYE BYE BIRDIE, THE MUSIC MAN and PETE'S DRAGON, but onstage it seems to make more sense.  Below are two clips from the 1983 revival (which essentially remounted the original production). Note how cleanly she stages "It's Today", making it simultaneously a full company production number, and a quite naturalistic party.  Also note her use of line and space in the elegant title number--and the way she uses the bodies of her chorus members.  Though recreating this choreograhy around a new production would probably not work, I don't know of  any choreographers today who have such a pure sense of dance and movement as metaphor combined with a musical comedy sensibility.  Could Bill T Jones work with jazz squares?

02 November 2009

What Happened at BRIGHTON BEACH?

1 week after opening, producers have closed BRIGHTON BEACH MEMOIRS and cancelled the partner production of BROADWAY BOUND which was supposed to, eventually, run in rep with BRIGHTON BEACH.  As members of the theatrical community and press, try and sort out "what happened?" I thought I'd throw my own 2 cents into the works.

1) Lest there be any doubt, it was a WONDERFUL production.  Funny, well acted, and smart.

2) The play is mercilessly wholesome about it.  As a jaded New Yorker it was a bit of a relief--like hot cider or a cookie--but I can see how many would not be intrigued by jokes about not wanting to eat liver, or wondering what boobs look like.  And before I spontaneously bought a TDF ticket, I didn't feel particularly compelled to see it.  But boy, am I glad I did.

3) The marketing seemed largely ineffectual.  I only saw banner ads on playbill and, eventually, NYTimes.com.  Whereas I see HAIR ads on every city bus.  The artwork itself is particularly unexciting to me.

It seems to get too much leverage out of the name Neil Simon, which, in and of itself, isn't that exciting.  Beyond that, you just have a couple of guys, one of whom is wearing knickers.  When has a pair of knickers ever sold tickets?

4) Stars.  There aren't any (really) in this production.  Except Laurie Metcalf.  She is very talented.  She won 3 Emmy Awards for her work on ROSEANNE.  And, aside from a brief Broadway stint in the completely forgotten NOVEMBER, she's been off the public radar since ROSEANNE went off the air.

Except for the fact that ROSEANNE hasn't been off the air.  You can pretty much ALWAYS find an episode of ROSEANNE on if you're in the mood.  There are two types of people in this world: People who refuse to watch ROSEANNE and people who realize that, at least in its early seasons, ROSEANNE was one of the best-written and acted sitcoms ever.  Which is why it's on 47 times a day.  So there is an audience out there for Laurie Metcalf.  Why wasn't SHE exploited more?  Where were the interviews in press and on television?  Why is she totally missing from the print ads?  To pave the way for knickers?  Yes, the play is about the boys (who are basically little Neil Simons), but theater audiences want hot men or powerful women.  When you lead is 15 years old, you might want to consider going for the latter.

5) As William Goldman said in his fabulous book about Broadway, THE SEASON (as well as his equally wonderful ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE): Nobody knows anything.